- Zuma claimed that it was nothing more than a conspiracy to overthrow him and that he had never committed any irregularities in business with the Gupta family.
- Zuma said it was impossible for a family to have corrupted the government, Parliament and the judiciary.
- The presence of the former president in court was not required by law, but he was invited to testify after being mentioned by other witnesses.
In court testimony, Former South African President Jacob Zuma rejects allegations of crimes and claims to be the target of conspiracies to get him out of the picture. He is accused of corruption and involvement with entrepreneurs who had an influence in his government. Zuma denied a number of accusations against him on Monday. He said that for years he has been the target of conspiracies and attempts to destroy his reputation.
“I was defamed and accused of being the king of corruption,” he said in a statement in a court in Parktown, suburban Johannesburg, where partisans and opponents of the former leader gathered outside. The inquiry is investigating whether the former president allowed his allies to loot public coffers and exert influence in nominating government officials.
Zuma claimed that it was nothing more than a conspiracy to overthrow him and that he had never committed any irregularities in business with the Gupta family, involved in several ventures with state-owned enterprises and accused of influential traffic during his rule. “I never did anything illegal with them, they were just friends. I never discussed anything that did not concern them,” he said. “I was a business person, I do not know anything about business. I’m a politician, I know a few things about politics.”
The former president even accused foreign intelligence agencies of acting against him but did not mention the countries that would be involved in such actions. “I survived assassination attempts,” he said. Speaking before the committee, Zuma adopted a defiant tone and said he was the victim of “character assassination” campaign perpetrated by his enemies more than 20 years ago. “There has been a movement to get me off the stage, they want me to disappear,” he said.
Still, on the Gupta family, he said it was impossible for a family to have corrupted the government, Parliament and the judiciary. “It’s an exaggeration, with the aim of reinforcing the narrative against Zuma,” he said himself. “This commission, according to those who are implementing things, should be the tomb of Zuma. He should be buried here.”
“The commission does not have the authority to prove any case about anyone but to investigate and evaluate certain allegations,” Judge Raymond Zondo said, thanking Zuma for going to court. The presence of the former president in court was not required by law, but he was invited to testify after being mentioned by other witnesses. The commission of inquiry heard several witnesses for 130 days in session, since last year.
After ruling the country for nine years, Zuma, 77, was removed from the presidency in 2018 by his own party, the African National Congress (CNA), and replaced by his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa. One of the witnesses in the investigation, businessman Angelo Agrizzi reported that Zuma accepted a monthly fee of $22,000 from a firm trying to avoid a police investigation. The money, theoretically, would have gone to charities. Agrizzi said his company organized parties and provided alcoholic beverages and birthday cakes to stay within the favors of Zuma’s associates.
Former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, fired by Zuma in 2015, told the commission that the former president forced some nuclear and aviation energy policies that would have been designed to benefit the Gupta family. Former Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas reported that the Gupta offered him the position of minister and even threatened to kill him if he refused a $40 million tip.
The Gupta brothers are accused of making fraudulent profits from government contracts in areas such as energy and transportation during the Zuma government. They owned a uranium mine, as well as technology and media companies, which have benefited them in that period. The family of Indian origin left South Africa and began to concentrate its business in Dubai. The brothers Aja, Atul and Rajesh Gupta deny having committed any irregularities.
Zuma faces 16 counts of corruption in association with a million-dollar arms purchase agreement signed in the late 1990s. The former president was allegedly tipped off by Thales French company, which closed a billionaire deal when Zuma was the state’s secretary and later vice president of CNA.
The former president is accused of pocketing $340,000 through 783 illicit payments. The charges have gone to court for more than a decade. They were presented by the prosecution in 2007.